Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Mark Crilley

© Mark Crilley

Jan. 6, 2017

Today we have the pleasure of featuring manga creator and author-illustrator Mark Crilley, who recently wrote a graphic novel,  THE DRAWING LESSON: A GRAPHIC NOVEL THAT TEACHES YOU HOW TO DRAW.

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Please tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I was raised in Detroit, Michigan, and have been in love with drawing for as long as I can remember. I majored in art at Kalamazoo College, and studied under children's book illustrator David Small. His work inspired me to begin creating stories suitable for children. I created a comic book story called AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO back in 1992, then mailed copies of it to comic book publishers until one of them offered to publish it, in 1995.



© Mark Crilley
 
Tell us about your recent book, THE DRAWING LESSON: A GRAPHIC NOVEL THAT TEACHES YOU HOW TO DRAW.  How did this come about?

I wanted to do a how-to-draw book in graphic novel form. I knew it could be a good way of showing how a beginning artist is taught, because the reader would be able to see the whole learning process: the mistakes a student makes and then has to correct.



© Mark Crilley


I was determined to have it be a real story, though, not just a series of lessons. So I invented a student character, a mentor character, and then imagined how they might meet and eventually become friends. I made sure there was a source of conflict, even if it was just a mild one: Becky doesn't really want to be a drawing mentor. She's pushed into it by David. This situation creates most of the tension and comedy that we find in the story.



© Mark Crilley

 

You have written and illustrated both novels (Akiko, Billy Clikk book series) and graphic novels (Miki Falls, Akiko comics). How do you decide what format to tell your stories? 
 
In some ways the publisher makes this decision. The Akiko young reader novels, for example, were set in motion by Random House, who came to me and suggested I turn my comics into prose fiction. But certainly a graphic novel story should be filled with lots of visually dynamic scenes. If I had a story idea that was built mostly around conversations, I might choose to make that prose fiction rather than a graphic novel.





What are the additional skill sets an author-illustrator needs to make graphic novels or comics? 

So much of it is the nuts and bolts of putting art and speech bubbles into the individual panels. You need to be able to really see the whole scene in your head, almost like a movie, so as to know how to present it to the reader in the clearest possible way. I'd say a first timer ought to consider doing a "practice story" at the outset, just to learn the basics by trial and error. Then you can apply that knowledge to a second project that will really be publishable.



© Mark Crilley

 

What projects are you working on now?

I'm in the middle of a new how-to-draw book for my MASTERING MANGA publisher. Though I can't reveal the specifics yet, I can say it stays within the manga style but is focused on one particular way of drawing. I'm also at the stage of proposing a new book for Watson-Guptill, the publishers of "The Drawing Lesson." It's way too early to  say much about that, but rest assured they are all fresh, new ideas, different from any of the books I've done thus far.



© Mark Crilley
 
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors & illustrators?

Sometimes I think the most important thing to remember is not to compare yourself to others. You're on your own path, and if you keep at it, you're going to get somewhere really interesting. It's not a competition. You don't need to "beat" someone else. Come to think of it, this is a piece of advice I had Becky give to David at one point in the pages of "The Drawing Lesson."



What is one thing most people don't know about you?

When I was in high school I went to my local record store and got the autographs of all the members of Duran Duran. I was quite the fan of British pop music in those days.

Where can people find you online?

YouTube: www.youtube.com/markcrilley
Twitter: www.twitter.com/markcrilley
Facebook: www.facebook.com/markcrilleyOFFICIAL
Instagram: www.instagram.com/markcrilleyREAL
Website: www.markcrilley.com


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Mark Crilley was raised in Detroit, where he started drawing almost as soon as he could hold a pencil in his hand.  After graduating from Kalamazoo College in 1988, where he was befriended by children’s author David Small, he taught English in Taiwan and Japan for nearly five years. 

His first comic series, Akiko, was published in 1995, leading Random House to invite him to adapt it as a series of chapter books. His graphic novel series, Miki Falls, was chosen by the American Library Association as one of the “Great Graphic Novels for Teens” for 2007. Crilley’s work has been featured in USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and on CNN Headline News and Comcast On Demand, and his popular YouTube videos have been viewed 320 million times and counting. He lives in Michigan with his wife, Miki, and children, Matthew and Mio.

17 comments:

  1. Wow, Mark! Way to represent Michigan👏🏻 I like the "student-mentor" angle for teaching how to draw. Can't wait to read it!

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  2. This looks like a great book! And I loved this quote: "You're on your own path, and if you keep at it, you're going to get somewhere really interesting." Thanks for the reminder!

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  3. Brilliant! Definitely going on my list of books to buy.

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  4. What a clever book and such a great mentor! Congrats!

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  5. hmm not sure if my comment worked..o.o
    I really enjoyed this article! :D

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  6. Beautiful work, Mark! So glad I got to discover it here :)

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  7. Don't compare yourself to others. Love this advice, Mark. Thank you for sharing some great tips and I look forward to reading your book.

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  8. I like your pictures, and your advice!

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  9. Terrific concept! Studying art under David Small sounds like a great foundation.

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  10. Wonderful advice! Great post and thank you!

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  11. Thanks for this interview! My eighteen-year-old owns all of Mark's MASTERING MANGA books.

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  12. What a great idea for a book! Can't wait to read it/learn from it!

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  13. This looks like a great book for my 9-year-old daughter! She's currently working through the first Mastering Manga book.

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  14. I'm wanting to illustrate instead of just write. Got to check out this book!

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  15. Hi, Mark! My daughter still has her signed illustration you did after I "stalked" you in the library. It's so awesome to see you featured here. I adore your talent and remember feeling amazed at how quickly you could make an image appear on paper. I'm looking forward to reading and sharing this book with my kids.

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  16. Holy cow! I've got to get this for T!

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